California – Thirty-eight players, three coaches and our team athletic trainer spent the week of March 14 thru March 23 in California getting ready for the spring season and bonding with each other and our west-coast based alumni as part of a memorable spring tour. We started the week with two weekend days of practice on Stanford’s renowned Steuber Family Rugby Field. After a winter of practices in Hanover, sunny skies and a dry grass field was the perfect way to start off tour. On our first night, the Moragne family hosted the team as well as many alumni and friends of the club for a wonderful evening of food, swimming and team bonding. This was a welcomed opportunity for the guys who had been off-campus in the winter to reconnect with teammates. After practice on Saturday, the players had a chance to explore San Francisco before heading to an extraordinary banquet, held at the University Club, honoring Dartmouth Rugby. Dartmouth alumni spanning the decades attended the event and the camaraderie and school spirit led this evening to be one of the many highlights of the week. After a solid practice on Sunday, we spent the afternoon and soaking in the hospitality of DRFC alumnus Tim McAdam ’90 at his home in Portola Valley. After that, we made the quick drive over to the Donahoe house to take in the sunset and enjoy another delicious meal, before heading back to Palo Alto.
On Monday, the boys went through a traditional Captain’s Run in the morning before heading to Berkeley late that afternoon for the 1st VX match with the University of California-Berkeley. The team walked onto Witter Field greeted by a large crowd, which included hundreds of Dartmouth supporters. The match was lopsided as the men in green lost 99-7 to the perennial powerhouse. For us, however, the match was a long-awaited return to the pitch after a long New England winter, with the goal being to get ready for the start of our spring season and the all-important Ivy Championships.
On Tuesday, we spent the afternoon at the house of DRFC alumnus John Gleason ’76. The barbecue, the hospitality, the stories and the camaraderie were tremendous, as was the view of the surrounding area. That evening, we traveled to San Luis Obispo where we met our competitors for the next day, the Cal Poly Rugby team. We split up and billeted with different Cal Poly players. This too was a highlight as we were able to get a real sense of the environment at another school and a chance to bond with our rugby opponents. The next day, the second XV took the pitch for the first competition of the spring, losing 7-5 in a hard-fought match. The first XV then took the field for battle against a very strong 1st XV from Cal Poly. In a competitive match, with some early scoring and then a good deal of back-and-forth possession, Cal Poly prevailed by a score of 29-15. The team as a whole began to come together that day and there was solid play from both the first and second sides, despite the results.
The following morning, the guys hit the road once again, driving along the coast from San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara where the second XV faced off against Santa Barbara Academy on a pitch with a stunning mountainous California backdrop. This match allowed some of the boys to get their first extensive playing time of the tour, which is vital because there is no substitute for real contact and real competition. In another hard-fought battle, the Santa Barbara Academy squad prevailed 36-22.
After a day in Santa Barbara, the team traveled to Venice Beach for the final stop of the tour. A beach workout and some time to recover on the sand and in the ocean was just what the doctor ordered, as preparation continued for a full slate of action this spring.
Over the course of the tour the coaching staff and some of the club’s officers got the chance to enjoy a few high level high school rugby contests as well. These matches included the likes of Peninsula Green, East Palo Alto, Pleasanton Cavaliers, Piedmont and many other strong clubs. It’s clear that future or rugby in this country is bright.
The squad returned to Hanover Sunday morning having spent nine days working back into rugby shape, bonding, having a chance to explore the other coast, being treated like kings by alumni and family, and working towards our most current goal, namely, getting ready for our Ivy semi-final match this Saturday, March 29, at 6:00 at home.
Coach Gavin Hickie commented on tour by stating: “Despite the score-lines of our games, I see the tour as a big success. Since our return to Hanover, we have trained with more intensity and purpose as we prepare for our Ivy semi-final and the Armory Collegiate 7s this Saturday. All of us would like to extend our sincere gratitude to all our hosts, alums, parents and supporters in California. You helped to shape a wonderful rugby and life experience for the touring members of the DRFC. We would also like to thank tour director, Dylan Jones for all his great work in organizing this year's tour.”
Co-captain Neil Greene '14 echoed Hickie’s sentiment stating, “I was disappointed with the scoreboard results but we were able to identify key areas to work on. We are at the point where we’re improving a lot game to game which is exciting. Off the field I was impressed by the generous hospitality of the California alumni.”
Looking forward into the spring campaign, the Ivy Cup final will pit the winner of Dartmouth/Penn against the winner of Cornell/Harvard on April 5th at the higher seed. Then the Varsity Cup will begin April 12 with a home match against Clemson. Dartmouth is also sending a team of players not participating in the Ivy semi-final to a Sevens tournament being held this Saturday, March 29, in Springfield, MA.
Dartmouth’s 2013-14 season will culminate with the CRC 7’s in Philadelphia May 31-June 1, as the team looks to build on its 3rd place finish at this fall’s USA Rugby National 7s.
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